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US says Russia is not complying with New Start nuclear arms treaty

The US has determined that Russia is not honoring its obligations under the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the powers, officials said Tuesday.

In a report sent to Congress, the US State Department said Russia violated the New START treaty by not allowing necessary checks and refusing to participate in compliance meetings.

“Russia’s refusal to cooperate with inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of US-Russian nuclear arms control,” a US State Department spokesman said.

Senior Republicans wrote to Biden administration officials last week urging them to decide on Russia’s compliance, citing concerns over Moscow’s decision last year to suspend inspections and cancel participation in consultations required by the treaty.

Although the treaty is not directly related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s hostility towards the West over sanctions and the supply of high-tech weapons to Kyiv has exacerbated tensions over the issue.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister and key negotiator on the treaty, told the Kommersant newspaper last Thursday that Moscow was unlikely to resume talks as long as the US continued to support Ukraine.

He said that Russia had told the US that “until the US reconsiders its highly hostile line towards our country and abandons its policy of cultivating threats to Russia’s national security,” any “positive signals” of START compliance would be “unjustified, untimely and inappropriate.”

On Tuesday, Ryabkov met with Lynn Tracy, the new US ambassador to Moscow, and discussed “some current arms control issues,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

But when Tracy arrived to present her credentials the day before, she was greeted by a crowd of screamers waving signs and chanting “America is a terrorist state!”

The police did not break up the rally, which in itself is a sign that it was probably officially sanctioned, since even public protests in support of the regime are tightly controlled by the security services.

US officials on Tuesday said they remained committed to the agreement and urged Russia to return to compliance by allowing inspections to resume and negotiations. According to them, the Russian inspectors had no obstacles to travel to the United States.

“Russia has a clear path to full compliance,” a State Department spokesman said. “The United States remains committed to working constructively with Russia to fully implement New START.”

The United States and Russia agreed in 2021 to a five-year extension of the treaty, which limits both countries to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons.

Russia’s actions have raised fears that Washington and Moscow could find it difficult to strike a follow-up deal in 2026, leaving the countries without a nuclear arms control agreement.

In a statement, four Republicans on the Senate and House Armed Services committees, Senators Roger Wicker and Deb Fischer, and Representatives Mike Rogers and Doug Lambourne called on the Biden administration to hold Russia accountable for violating the treaty.

“Letting Moscow choose when and how it will abide by the treaty rules — especially at a time when the United States consistently adheres to those same rules — is unacceptable and unacceptable. Russia must be held accountable for its actions if the new START treaty, or any future agreement at all, is of any significance,” they said.

Washington’s assessment comes as Western officials worry that Russia could use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine as Kremlin forces face further setbacks on the battlefield.

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